Iran deliberately shot down plane full of passengers in act of terrorism, Canadian judge rules

Jury to decide how much Iran should pay victims in compensation, but collection will be challenging

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Friday 21 May 2021 21:24
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Related Video: Iran’s report into downing of Flight PS752 ‘incomplete,’ TSB says

A judge in Ontario has ruled that Iran intentionally shot down a passenger airliner in January 2020 causing the deaths of 176 people including dozens of Canadians.

The decision adds judicial weight to allegations that the crash of the Ukrainian International Airlines plane, shortly after it departed Tehran for Kiev, was not an accident.

A total of 55 Canadians and 30 permanent residents of Canada died in the tragedy.

Now a civil jury of six of their fellow nationals — ordinary members of the public — will decide how much compensation the Iranian government must pay for their deaths.

The plaintiffs are asking for $1.5bn and the jury hearing on damages is likely to occur in the next three months, The National Post reports.

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In reviewing the suit, Justice Edward Belobaba of Ontario’s Supreme Court said that it did not allege negligence on the part of the Iranians, but that the incident had been a deliberate attack. As such it falls under the remit of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.

Perhaps the biggest challenge will be the collection of the damages decided by the jury, as Iran does not recognise Canada’s legal jurisdiction over the crash.

Iran did not defend the suit and the court declared the Middle Eastern nation to be “in default”.

Mark Arnold, the lawyer handling the case for the plaintiffs, said: “We will seize and sell any Iranian assets worldwide that we can get our hands on.”

“Oil tankers full of oil heading to Venezuela, Gibraltar, South Korea, Thailand, Australia. We will invoke the assistance of any foreign court that might assist us,” he added. “It is possible to do. Takes a lot of work but it’s possible to do.”

Flight PS752 crashed outside Tehran on 8 January, 2020. Of the 176 onboard, 138 were travelling to Canada through Ukraine. Many were students heading back to university after the winter break.

Tensions in the region were high after the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a drone strike just days before.

Iran had responded with retaliatory missile attacks on US targets in Iraq — at the Ayn al-Asad airbase and another site in Erbil.

While the Iranians initially claimed the attack was an accident, they eventually admitted that their air defence forces had fired two missiles at the Boeing 737 passenger plane.

A report released in March saw Tehran claim the incident happened due to human error identifying the aircraft as a hostile target.

The Canadian government dismissed the report for failing to answer important questions.

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